Courtesy of Nune Garipian

“What does being First-Generation and/or Low-Income mean to you?” read a question scrawled across a whiteboard on Cross Campus.

On Friday, the Community Initiative, First-Generation Low-Income at Yale (FLY) and QuestBridge hosted their annual photo campaign from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Cross Campus before moving to the Center for Teaching and Learning. They held the campaign in celebration of the National First-Generation College Celebration — an annual event meant to celebrate the success and achievements of first-generation college students, faculty and staff. According to Woodbridge Fellow Jorge Anaya ’19, the event was made possible by the administrative support provided to empower first-generation, low-income students on campus.

“Our main goal with this event is to have the community grow as much as possible and have as many students know that they’re not alone,” Anaya said. “I hope to gain more visibility for first-generation, low-income students, and I also wanted to provide an opportunity to give students something to celebrate. There’s a lot of problems FGLI face and I guess for a lot of things we’re on the outside looking in, so it can be alienating socially and academically.”

Due to the cold weather, the organizations moved the event from Cross Campus to the Center For Teaching and Learning, where FLY hosted the “Decipher Your Financial Aid” workshop. During the activity, they hosted a Jeopardy-style game that asked students questions about the financial aid letter and package. Alongside the Jeopardy event, the organizations gave out free food, pins, stickers, T-shirts and copies of the book “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students” by Anthony Abraham Jack. The groups estimated that nearly 150 people filtered through the various programs — including the photo campaign and workshop — during the day.

Co-Presidents of FLY Paige Swanson ’20 and Neche Veyssal ’20 said they hope to grow the club and make the presence of FGLI students further known on campus. FLY — an undergraduate club in its second year — broadly aims to shape University policy to better the experiences of FGLI students.

“FLY is working with the financial aid office very generally such as making the wording of financial aid letters easier to read or working with financial aid officers to make information about students’ financial aid more accessible,” Swanson said.

Later this year, FLY will partner with the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project and the Yale College Council to stock Dwight Hall with food for students remaining on campus during Thanksgiving break.

Nune Garipian ’20, the photographer for the photo campaign who also identifies as a first-generation, low-income student, said she was honored to provide a platform for students to express what being FGLI meant to them.

“Everyone around me [in Los Angeles] where I grew up were FGLI,” said Garipian, who transferred from Pasadena City College. “There’s a distinction being FGLI here on campus because there’s not a lot of people here that identify with that. Seeing what other people write down in this photo campaign shows what other people have in common and can also identify with. When they write ‘family’ or ‘community’ in defining themselves as FGLI, there’s the hope that someone else can connect with it… We want the greater Yale community to know we’re FGLI, we exist, and we’re not in the shadows. We’re making noise.”

According to Garipian, she believes her small contribution in taking photos was a part of a larger effort in shaping FGLI culture on campus.

Vy Tran ’21, who participated in the photo campaign event, called the event important for campus.

“This event means visibility and finding other people that are also poor,” Tran said. “I don’t feel as alone. It means so much to see who else is standing at the table literally and metaphorically.”

Hung Ho ’20 emphasized the importance of hosting an event in a visible location at Cross Campus and the CTL.

He said he did not initially know the event was happening, but he was able to stumble upon it Friday afternoon.

“It’s nice to know that people are being proud of themselves for being first-generation and/or low-income because it’s a unique identity,” Ho said. “It is also even more important for those that don’t identify in that way to show support.”

The CTL is located at 301 York St.


Khue Tran |